Recently, my co-teachers and I visited another co-teacher whose father had passed away in a far countryside to show our sympathy to her families. There I met not only her late father in a box and her families but also her grandmother. She is already old, frail, bed-ridden, wrapped herself from head to toes despite the acrid weather. Her skin is almost wrinkled coming apart from her bones, and she can no longer see as her eye flaps covered her eyeballs flat . A wave of fear and awe came over me during the wake ; then, I remembered Henri Nouwen’s philosophy of aging.
Whenever I ask my students at what age they want to kick the bucket, surprisingly, most of their answer is anywhere between 40 and 50. Their common reason is that aging is a nightmarish stage of life when they go through many changes such as in emotional, social , mental , notably physical aspects. They are aware of that geriatric life could be a rite of physical pains. Consequently, society tends to hand over this negative stereotype to another generation.
In this book, Henri Nouwen and Walter Gaffney discusses what is aging and how it can be for people. According to him, there are three factors that make many old people feel ostracized: segregation, desolation, and loss of self. These factors are considered as three forms of rejection: rejection by society, rejection by friends, and rejection by inner self.
To extirpate this negative meme, Nouwen explains aging by likening it to the turning of the wheel as the gradual fulfillment of the life cycle . We should accept this fact from the deepest part of our heart as what we pulled through in our young adulthood stage. To avoid our possibility to develop geriatriphobia or fear of getting old, he supports his proponents by illustrating some anecdotes to understand the real minds of being senescent. In my books after reading it, I remain firmer in my belief that aging could be a bed of cherries and roses too. ^^
This little book is also interesting because it has 85 photographs about things around our environment symbolizing the natural ageism . Walter Gaffney must have taken them himself. They are even soothing in our eyes.
In the context of psychology, one of the theories why we are said to fear ageism , aside from the physical pains we could undergo, is that we tend to be stagnant at this age. We tend to ask ourselves what needs we have done so far since we began to explore the world. Have we met the goals which we have thought to be our satisfaction? Such as achievements in your career? or affiliation needs in which you have built your relationship? In this case, experts must be in the conjunction based on Maslow’s theory that in order to be happy even at the last stage of your life is that you will have done the goals you want to achieve before you die. As Mitch Albom’s professor put it in his best-selling book Tuesday with Morries:
“ If you do not know how to live , you are afraid to die.”
Thus, fear of death could be associated with ageism.
When my students ask me the same question, I said that I want to live as long as 100. My students frowned at my answer pursing their lips. They asked me why. I just replied that there could be many things I would love to do more. I am not afraid to get older. I would not care about the physical pains I could endure. Simply but ridiculously because I am obsessed with the books I want to read more in the next generation. ^^
Rating: 4/ 5 stars